Day 32 – On Being a College Parent – #100DaysofHigherEd

Unlike most other student affairs professionals, I really like working with parents. There is something eternally pure about overprotective parents dropping their kid off at orientation or residence hall sign in and the pride and fear on their faces. And I know that feeling. This past year I was that parent. This post is going to be a bit of personal privilege. I am going to recount my experience as a parent dropping our only child off for college for the first time and my experiences as a dad who had a freshman during a pandemic. I assume my authorship will not be as refined as I want it to be, but I want to write with honesty about how I felt and how it will forever change how I approach parents in the future.

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Day 31 – On Politics and the Classroom – #100DaysofHigherEd

For nearly 100 years the political views of college faculty and the potential suppression of free speech and ideas has been the subject of curiosity and criticism. The specter of the overreaching faculty member is boosted by an almost urban legend level of suspicion and recently lawmakers have shown a willingness to take this issue head on. The campus viewpoint diversity debate is heating up and no where is that more apparent than here in Florida where lawmakers have invested their time into ensuring the college classroom is safe for all students, regardless of their political or social leanings to be able to express themselves. 

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Day 30 – What I have Learned from Working with Multiple Universities – #100DaysofHigherEd

I was going to make this blog post about my observations on the politics of working at multiple universities and their commonalities and differences, but I am going to call a line of scrimmage audible for this post. I have had the pleasure to work for or with literally a dozen higher education institutions. Some have paid me for my services, and some have been opportunities for professional or educational growth. In any event I have been lucky to work with hundreds of higher education professionals from every job description and paygrade. I have worked with thousands of students from every walk of life. Students who came form privilege to students who could barely afford to eat, students who went onto Harvard Law to students who struggled to maintain a 2.0. I have had students who came to class in a full Burka and one who literally came to class in just a pair of jeans. No shirt, no shoes, just jeans. I think the oldest student I have had in class was a 70-year-old man who was going back to get his degree after working over 50 years in a factory and the youngest was a 14-year-old student who was taking classes to challenge herself.

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Day 29 – On My East Carolina Days – #100DaysofHigherEd

A couple of weeks ago an article by Pam Kelly appeared on The Assembly website and was titled “The Ill-Fated Chancellor” It was about my alma-mater East Carolina University and it has sparked a debate among alumni like myself; what is the soul or identity of a university and when should you stray from that identity? The article chronicled the university’s efforts to expand its map in terms of status and standing under the leadership of Chancellor Cecil Stanton. The piece was a real commentary on how a university is defined; by the ambitions of a Chancellor who has a personal goal or by the regional and national mission you have. Or is there room for both?

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Day 28 – College Life and Television – #100DaysofHigherEd

Pretty much everyone who knows me knows that I am a fan of how pop culture portrays college life and the politics of campus. And there is no shortage of media which focuses on college and how it is presented to the world. Today’s blog post will focus on this very interesting and wide subject. Please note, this is a massive universe so there is zero chance I will get to every show or television angle.

But let’s start at the beginning for me. The first time I was made aware of college life on TV was the show Family Ties and my personal hero Alex P. Keaton played by Michael J. Fox working to get into college and his years at college during the show. I feel like Alex was my college gateway drug. From then on, I wanted to go to college. So, when the girls from the Facts of Life went to college, I followed them too. And then game changer in the 1980s. When Denise Huxtable, played by Lisa Bonet went off to fictional Hillman College. This show hit at just the moment I too was getting ready to go to college.

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Day 27 – On Herding and Hazing – #100DaysofHigherEd

There is a certain sadness when I read a story about yet another hazing incident. As a person who cares about and for students and as someone who believes there is so much good in engagement and involvement when it comes to hazing this all comes tumbling down. This past weekend my daughter was initiated into her sorority at her university. Since she began dreaming of college, she knew she wanted to be part of Greek life. As a person she is a kid who loves being part of things, student government, BETA Club, and now Greek life. There have been few indications that she was hazed or even threatened with it. Her chosen sorority seems to be running a nice operation and she feels close to the girls. I suspect much her sense of wanting to belong comes from being an only child. And for that her mom and I understand.

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Day 26 – My Love for College Bookstores and Libraries – #100DaysofHigherEd

If the University of Georgia did not have a library, we may not have been blessed with R.E.M. or the B-52s. Its true. Or at least that is part of the thesis forwarded by Grace Elizabeth Hale in her new book; Cool Town – How Athens Georgia Launched the Alternative Music Scene and Changed American Culture. For many music fans like myself, and more notably fans of R.E.M. and the B-52s we can all agree that the world is a better place because these bands had access to what the library contained. Here is how the story goes. Fred Schneider would go to the UGA Library and check out microfilms, Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson would listen to old Motown records and read fashion magazines from the 1950s, Michael Stipe would read about art movements and Bill Berry would check out old bluegrass records. These artifacts would allow kids who were living in rural Georgia to dream about a life of high fashion, intelligent music, and what it meant to be cool.

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Day 25 – Higher Education, Peter Pan, and Body Dysmorphia – #100DaysofHigherEd

For most of my career, I have spent my days with lots and lots of people who are much younger, better looking, more fit, and decades younger. I truly live the life of Wooderson, the Matthew McConaughey character from the movie Dazed and Confused. “I get older, they stay the same age.” The fact is I have always worked with students who are between the ages of 18-25. It is part of the job. Here is the issue though. As I age and change, I find that my lifestyle has not. I still think I am the same age now that I was when I started in this career. And that is an unreasonable thing to considering that is not how human anatomy works.

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Day 24 – Accepting Yourself as the Higher Ed pro You Are – #100DaysofHigherEd

I must admit, it has not turned out the way I had hoped. It is not even close. When I first entered a classroom to begin my journey to be a higher education professional it was the summer of 1995. I had just arrived on the campus of Southern Illinois University – Carbondale and I was sitting in Dr. James Wallace’s class. He asked us the same question I have asked countless students – what do you want to be one day? What kind of position do you desire to find yourself in at some point? Of course, I wanted to be a Vice-President of Student Affairs. I think everyone in the class did. It felt right. Aspirational. Powerful. Inspirational. Well-Paid. It was all the things you dream of. This week, I canceled that dream once and for all. I accepted who I am as a higher ed professional and it ain’t that.

But this is not the first time. I once had dreams I was going to quarterback the Miami Dolphins but then I realized I cannot throw. I was going to be the next Tom Brokaw. But then I saw what TV news was like through a job I had in North Carolina and I did not want to do that either. So., I went into student affairs. If we are being honest, a VPSA would have been plan D for my career already so I am not so sure why I sulked about it. The fact is, almost all of us never become what we dreamed to be.

And that should be OK.

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Day 23 – Travel as a Higher Ed Professional – #100DaysofHigherEd

In November 2019, just before the pandemic I found myself in a 5-star restaurant where I could not understand the menu, and nothing looked appetizing. It all started innocently enough. A group of us from Florida were at the conference reception, enjoying our drink ticket drinks, chatting away. Then someone suggested, we should all get dinner. And so, it begins. Soon after we are all on Google seeing what is close. And I was tossing out ideas like a carnival barker; there is a good-looking Noodle Shop across the street, does anyone want Italian? What about the lobby sports bar? All reasonable suggestions with a large menu. And then it happens. One of the group suggests the trendy 5-star restaurant with the vague name and she just so happened to be able to procure a table for six. After all, she has heard amazing things about this place, which that pretty much means I am going to be eating squid ink pasta and Salmon tonight for $79.99. I am not a 5 Star restaurant guy. But you cannot say no right? There goes my per diem and then some.

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